Monday, May 01, 2017

May Day in America, Silent No More

Today is a great day to support workers. In America,  today shaping up to be the biggest May Day demonstrations in many years. Kent Wong, the director of the UCLA Labor Center and a vice president of the California Federation of Teachers, explains that this May Day “is being spearheaded by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, representing more than 800,000 union members. Some of the most dynamic labor organizing campaigns in Los Angeles have been led by immigrant workers, including janitors, hotel workers, home care workers, food workers, and car wash workers.” Wong explains: "Although May Day grew out of the struggle for the eight-hour day in Chicago in 1886, for generations the U.S. labor movement had refused to stand in solidarity with global worker celebrations on May Day.” Now according to Wong, 120 years after the first May Day in Chicago, “the spirit of May Day has returned to the U.S. led by a new generation of immigrant workers.“ There is large-scale mobilizing in Los Angeles for May Day, with labor unions joining workers' centers, immigrant rights groups, faith-based networks, and community organizations. Wong explains: “While fear of deportations in immigrant communities is high, there is also tremendous courage and resilience. Immigrant youth led walks-outs on college and high school campuses throughout California the days after the Trump election. The campaign to advance sanctuary for immigrants is spreading throughout the country. People of conscience are repulsed by the hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Trump administration."

I am going out on May Day for all of us workers," says Lydia Tomlin, member of the Restaurant Opportunities Center and the New York Worker Center Federation. She continued, "We are immigrants, women, LGBTQ, people of color, and we work in industries across the city. Without our labor, who will serve New Yorkers their coffee, stock their shelves, clean their houses, construct their buildings? Who will make NYC run?”  Especially noteworthy about the May Day activities in New York and across the country is the amazing diversity of cultures and of workers, many with common cause provoked by threats from the Trump administration. This May Day, according to Zoe West, an organizer with the New York Worker Center Federation (NYWCF), the Freedom Cities effort is “particularly focusing on the issues of economic justice and criminalization with a focus on redefining safety as being about investing in communities rather than investing in more policing.”

She continues, “The NYWCF members are very diverse and experience threats as Mexican street vendors, Bangladeshi restaurant workers, day laborers, African-American retail workers, taxi drivers, immigrants facing the looming threat of ICE, all different folks living in over-policed communities, etc.”

In Atlanta, Georgiaracial justice organizers will join in solidarity with The Majority, a new coalition of more than 50 social and racial justice organizations across the country, in leading May Day actions "to put forth a truly collective vision of economic justice and worker justice that centers black people, women, LGBTQIA people, immigrants and undocumented people and those that live at the intersections of multiple identities." 

"We are sick and tired of a political and economic system that prioritizes corporate profits over the basic needs of our communities," Jobs With Justice says in its call-to-action. "We know that the change we need won't come from President Trump, his corporate cabinet, or billionaire-backed politicians in Congress." The only way to take action against our rigged economy is by coming together and working to raise wages and working standards for all of us," the labor advocacy group continued. "While some of us were born here and others came here to escape hardships and build a new life, we share many of the same struggles. We've seen corporations attack our rights to join together and negotiate for a fair return on our work, and right-wing threats against us and our families regularly used to force us to remain silent. But we will remain quiet no more." 

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